Liberate Liberation from Liberation Day
In her keynote speech, University of Minnesota associate professor and Yigo native Christine Taitano DeLisle said the Guam Liberation Day celebration traditional since World War II needs a rethink, emphasizing CHamoru survival of the war rather than loyalty to the Americans who re-took the island.
DeLisle was inspired by her study of unpublished writings by Agueda Johnston, a revered Guam educator and community figure for many decades, who is often remembered for both her staunch patriotism and for her role in harboring the American Navy radioman George Tweed during the occupation of Guam in World War II.
DeLisle said that Johnston tried to be both American and CHamoru.
“She would sign letters, ‘Guamanian Chamorro by birth, but American patriot by choice.'"
DeLisle studied unpublished writings of Johnston, which Johnston called her "Chamorrita notes."
“As many of you know, (Johnston) was the mastermind behind Liberation Day, but what some of you may not know is that Johnston’s original intention for Liberation Day was really for it to be a fiesta and a procession in honor of Santa Marian Kamalen for looking out for the CHamorus," DeLisle said.
Johnston's original intention became co-opted in the 1950s, DeLisle said.
DeLisle doesn't deny the popularity of the Liberation Day Parade and she notes that Santa Marian Kamalen is honored with a popular procession, but she would like to see a rethinking of the parade.
“What would it mean to adopt loyalty as a theme, but loyalty to others as well as to Americans, a loyalty that's steeped in agradesi and being grateful, but is no longer beholden to making sacrifices, really big sacrifices?" she asked.
Growing up in Yigo, she was once princess from the village in the 1981 Liberation Day Queen contest. She recalls specific instructions to smile and look particularly grateful to the veterans and military escorts.
"When I think back to when I was a Yigo Liberation Day Princess, I think about the discrepancy between the fun at the village, the raffles, the excitement of making the float — I think we won that year — and the nervousness of appearing with our assigned military escorts all the time. That was really awkward to me. I mean, I was asked to be grateful to a stranger," she said.
"In the village, it was more about celebrating CHamoru survival. This is the real stuff of Liberation Day to me. When I think back, it would have made more sense to be with my mother or my grandmother or an auntie who lent an extra set of hands during the march to Manengon, who was holding my mother. It would have made more sense," she said.
False Belief in Guam Liberation Became an Article of Faith
by George Estaquio
August 30, 2020
Pacific Daily News
Your excellent article: “Guam battlefields and memorials: Take a history tour on Liberation Day” quotes the Guam Island Command war diary:
“The Japanese eventually abandoned Manengon and on Aug. 1, 1944, Americans took over the Manengon concentration camp, turning it into a refugee camp.
“An estimated 10,000 to 15,000 civilians remained on both sides of the Ylig River.
“When the Japanese left the camp, the natives, except a very few sick and aged who could not be carried, and a few relatives who remained behind to care for them, left for the American lines in Agat and Agana.”
Samuel Eliot Morison in his book, “New Guinea and the Marianas,” notes that in the July 1944 campaign dubbed “Forager,” the commander-in-chief Pacific intended Guam to be forward logistical base and staging area for B-29s bombing of Japan. “Furthermore we intended to keep them after the war is won.”
Nothing in the war diary quoted in your piece or in Morison’s account fits the definition of liberation. And yet for 76 years, federal and Guam officials and mayors and some academic type continue to spew the false narrative of July 21, 1944, as a military operation to relieve the CHamoru from Japanese oppression and occupation.
And turning the Manengon concentration camp into a refugee camp was like returning the Nazi’s prison survivors back to Auschwitz!
It’s proper to honor the servicemen who died on the beaches and boondocks during the recapture of Guam and on the road to Tokyo.
The Guam Liberation Day celebration was insinuated into Guam’s annual social commemorations and has wide public acceptance. Since 1946, and every year thereafter, village debutantes parade Marine Corps Drive on July 21, brandishing the “Guam Liberation Day” sash.
This false belief in the Guam liberation became an article of faith regardless of its historical foundation or lacked thereof. The “Guam liberation” is a misnomer and an overworked term. The real truth about the Guam liberation is closer to what was described in the Guam Island Command war diary. I was in the arena and able to distinguish between what were the facts and what was fiction.
The purpose here is not to continually beat on the proverbial dead horse. But truth matters. And the truth of the matter is that for 70-plus years, there has been insufficient focus on the real liberation that gave the people of Guam true freedom from 50 years of oppressive U. S. Navy administrative regime.
The passage by Congress and the signing of the Organic Act of Guam in 1950 by President Harry S. Truman conferred American citizenship and provided the people of Guam with not just the semblance, like the Guam Congress, but the substance of an American form of government that is democratic and worthy of annual observance.
Douglas W. Domenech, assistant secretary of Insular and International Affairs at the Department of Interior enumerated the millions of federal grants and the military protection benefiting Guam, in the Aug. 2 Pacific Daily News.
True, our military on Guam provides an umbrella of protection, but it also exposes the island’s residents to assured retaliation. And while federal largess is indeed beneficial to Guam, Domenech needs to be reminded that one-third of the island’s confiscated CHamoru lands are serving the nation’s security interests, not to mention the hundreds of men and women from Guam who are serving our country in uniform.
The Guam-federal relationship is a shared sacrifice, but also mutually beneficial.
George C. Eustaquio is a resident of Frederick, Maryland,
Painting over the Chamoru Experience No Longer Acceptable
by Andrew Gumataotao
June 1, 2020
Pacific Daily News
Since the late 1940s, after the end of World War II, the people of Guam and the Northern Marianas have celebrated Liberation Day. Although traditional festivities will not go on as planned, we are learning how to readjust and to manage what many people have been calling “the new normal.”
Although I agree with this to a certain extent, I don’t think this phrase adequately describes the possibilities our island community has carved out for ourselves. In many ways we are returning to the land and waters and we are reminded that when times are tremendously difficult, we best not be strangers to it.
From the frontliners to church parking lots, we are determined to pull through and maintain our relationships with one another.
In this time when we are uncomfortable, it can lead us to reflect on how we give and receive respect. How we imagine safety and security at all levels that affect us.
This past year our manamko’ have received their long overdue recognition of their hardships during World War II via the War Claims Act but we have also simultaneously taken to the streets on Marine Corps Drive, another act of claiming if you will, to demonstrate that the CHamoru people of Guam have the right to hold our destiny within our hands. I remember my father telling me that my Tata used to live where Marine Corps Drive now sits.
Today we understand that Liberation Day honors the soldiers who stormed our shores and gave so much, but what has emerged into focus is that we have never given up the acclaims of our manaina, they have sacrificed and have searched for too long to be recognized on the same parity of esteem withheld from them before, and whether they have assumed a uniform or not should not pit us against each other.
Painting over the CHamoru experience is no longer acceptable and we are bearing witness to how our island needs serious participation with the instruments of power that reside elsewhere.
The unearthing of our ancestor’s resistance and resilience has taken form in so many ways. They have not only survived incredible hardships from a war not of their own making, but they have raised and uplifted our community and remain here on this land and sea.
As we find our way to commemorate our history this July, whether it be within our individual households, or an online thoroughfare in lieu of a parade, what I hope is not glossed over are the profound ways in which we are returning, re-remembering, and envisioning our future as recipients of our ancestor’s sacrifices.
Hasso’ tatte ya un atan mo’na.
Andrew Gumataotao is a resident of Hagåtña.
A Liberation Day Reflection
by Laura Souder
Guam Daily Post
July 26, 2020